As Fall Begins, I Look Within
Li Yi (746-829)
Ten thousand fears have come to fix my life,
As on this mirrored shore I gaze uneased—
Here all I see has turned my temples white
And now it’s time to face the autumn breeze.
Lì Qiū Qián Yī Rì Lǎn Jìng
Wàn shì xiāo shēn wài
Shēng yá zài jìng zhōng
Wéi jiāng mǎn bìn xuě
Míng rì duì qiū fēng
Transliteration and Notes
Start Autumn Ahead One Day Look-At Mirror
Ten-thousand things fasten body outside
Life shore at mirror within
Only will fill temple-hair snow
Tomorrow day face autumn wind
“Start Autumn” is the beginning of autumn. “Ten-thousand things” means “all things.” “Body” here can mean one’s morality and conduct, as in one’s self or essence. “Life shore” means “one’s career” or “the way one lives one’s life.” “Snow” can mean “looks like snow” so that “temple-hair snow” means “white temples,” suggesting anxiety or age.
Li Yi was a poet of the Tang Dynasty. He served as a minor regional official and accountant, but failed to be promoted to a higher position or transferred to the capital. He was known to be strict with his family, not allowing his wife public contact, and frequently criticized other poets of his time. As a result, he was widely disliked, which may have contributed to his lack of career success. Nonetheless, he was famous for writing beautiful quatrains, which gained favor with the emperor, and three of his poems were included in the 300 Tang Poems anthology.